Howdy. I'm Pat McLene. Welcome to my blog. I used to write a weekly column on about prepping - or as I prefer to call it - Self-Dependence. The purpose of this blog is to allow me to go deeper into self-dependence than I did at WND and to help those who are starting the journey along. Check out the About Me link to the right for more info on yours truly. And thanks for stopping by.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

 I was listening to the radio today while working in the shop. It being Saturday, there wasn't really a whole lot on so by default I was tuned into one of those home repair shows that seem to dominate weekend radio. The home fix-it radio guy was broadcasting from the home fix-it radio guy national convention, or something like that. In my mind, I could see a whole line of radio home fix-it guys all broadcasting from their own booths, with another line of hardware salesman moving from booth to booth every few minutes to pitch their wares. Anyway, the home fix-it guy I was listening to was chewing the fat with a rep from a big plumbing company and the rep was there to pitch one of their new products; Wi-Fi plumbing.

Apparently the radio guy had already installed some of this company's new equipment in his own home, and was really excited about how it worked. He said something like, "Yeah, I can get up in the morning, and tell Alexa that I want her to fire up the shower at 102°, and she does!". Then he went on to describe how he told Alexa to prepare two quarts of water at 92° (I have no idea why he wanted two quarts of water at 92°.). And she did!

The radio host and the dealer rep continued to chat for a while when the radio fix-it guy made a prediction. He said that he was pretty sure that within 10 years there would be no more manual light switches in any new residential construction.

That prediction threw me for a loop. This isn't just some guy talking on the radio, he's one of the big names in his business and I take his predictive ability seriously.

Which brings me to this. Recent news has been chock full of stories about social media sites that are developing artificial intelligence to review posts and to determine whether the authors of those posts are engaged in "hate speech". Since the algorithms that will drive those artificial intelligence systems will be created by leftists and progressives, my guess - driven by experience - is that hate speech will be defined as anything those progressive leftists think is hateful, meaning anything that would imply those same libs are yammerheads.

I know a number of people who have been temporarily or permanently banned from such social media sites as Twitter and Facebook for expressing opinions that do not square with the beliefs of those who run the social media sites. And when your twitter or Facebook account is closed there's little you can do about it, since social media sites are privately owned enterprises. So this brings up the question, if Alexa is listening to you talk at all times in your home, then what's to keep Alexa from determining that you are a hateful person as defined by it's creators. Further, if Alexa has made such a determination, what's to keep Alexa from taking some kind of corrective or punitive actions.

Just suppose, for example, the previous evening, safe in your domicile, you were venting about the Democratic numbskulls on Capitol Hill or the problems of illegal immigration. The next day you went off to work at your patriarchal sweatshop and when you return home after a long day of beating your employees, you discover that the front door won't open for you. To make matters worse, when you finally get in by cracking a window, none of the lights will come on, your electric heat pump won't run, your toilets won't flush, and all the food in your refrigerator is spoiling. Who are you going to complain to? After all, Alexa doesn't work for you, she works for Apple. And Apple has determined scientifically that you're a jerk.

Folks, part of self dependence must include not having to depend on technology. We have a brave New World coming very very soon. And for the ease of convenience we are paying others to limit our own autonomy.

All I can say is that at a minimum, you tell the building contractor of your next new home that you want working light switches and an "Alexa" manual override on every "smart" application. Don't surrender your freedom to some busybot. Fortunately for me, I live in such a way that no AI can shut off my water or cripple my wood stove.

As I frequently say in my WND column, this is one of the reasons that we prep.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Ticking Clock

Being someone with a prepper mindset, I'm always interested in people predicting the end of the world. Today, we have those concerned scientists from the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists who have moved their "Doomsday Clock" from 2 1/2 minutes to midnight to two minutes to midnight. The clock was originally published in 1947, and at that time the clock was set to seven minutes before midnight. In all of these many years since, the clock has never fallen below 17 minutes before the end of the world. In 2017, the Doomsday Clock was set to 2 1/2 minutes before midnight because…well because...Donald Trump. Today, those merry clock setting atomic scientists (I love saying "atomic scientist". It's so Buck Roger-ish.") bumped it up another 30 seconds because…well because...Donald Trump.

I'm always interested in the organizations that are fronted by powerful names like the "Bulletin of Atomic Scientists" (Heh) So I went to their webpage and checked out just what kind of atomic scientists were on the staff of the publication.

What a surprise. So far as I can tell from the staff bios, not a single one of them is an atomic scientist. In point of fact, any of the physical sciences seem to be missing from the curriculum vitaes' of the people behind the Bulletin.

The president and CEO of the BAS, Rachel Bronson,  served for eight years at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs She taught "Global Energy" as an adjunct professor at the Kellogg School of Management. She was a senior fellow and director of Middle East studies at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York. Earlier positions include a senior fellowship for international security affairs at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.  Dr.(?) Bronson also has "hundreds of publications" under her belt, appearing in such prestigious scientific tomes as " The New York Times, The Washington Post, Huffington Post and The Chicago Tribune" and apparently Teen Vogue. And let's not forget her public appearances on important educational outlets such as " CNN, al Jazerra, the Yomiuri Shimbun, "PBS NewsHour," "The Charlie Rose Show," and "The Daily Show."

I won't get into the other staff members by name, but the Editor-in-Chief is a recipient of the prestigious Sidney Hillman award for reporting on social justice issues, the Senior Editor began his journalism career in Taiwan where he reported for a business magazine, the Deputy Editor has a bachelor of journalism degree from the University of Missouri and a Masters in science writing from New York University. The the rest of the staff are media experts, reporters, and social activists. So far as I can tell not a single one of them could define Planck's constant on a bet.

For my own reasons, I won't delve too deeply into my own educational background. But my college experience make me more of an atomic scientist than anyone on the staff of Bulletin of Atomic Scientists.

So I wouldn't worry too much about the doomsday clock. In point of fact - in my humble opinion - The world's safety has recently been enhanced by replacing the poodle in the national doghouse with a pit bull.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Public Interest

So last week, a three-judge panel of the US Fifth Circuit Court upheld a federal law that prohibited the sales of handguns to out-of-state residents. The main justification for their decision - after getting past all the legal gobbledygook - was that the federal law remains in the best interest of the public.

It's always depressing when our federal courts make decisions based on their own whims of what is or is not in the public interest rater than the clear limitations delineated by the Constitution.  Humans can be very moody beasts and a judicial stomach ache caused by "an undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese, a fragment of an underdone potato." will often result in the production of copious amounts of "public interest".

I suppose part of the court's justification could be that while the Constitution protects the rights of citizens to keep and bear arms, it doesn't say diddly-squat about being able to buy them. Of course to be fair, it also doesn't say anything about being able to shoot them either, so I suppose you can have them and you can carry them but in the public interest you can't use them, purchase them, or sell them.

More often than not "public interest" is just another aphorism for "bovine excrement". But no matter which phrase you use, if it doesn't square with the laws of nature's God or the governmental limits of the Constitution, it has no place in jurisprudence.

Monday, January 22, 2018

Alternate Tool Ideas

One of the axioms of being a prepared prepper is the rule of three. That rule goes: "Three is two, two is one, one is none." Basically what that means is that you should always have or try to have three of any one tool in case one or more breaks, and it can also mean you should have at least three different ways to do the same job or perform the same function.

For example, to light a fire, the experienced prepper would have available as needed: a propane lighter, a Zippo lighter equipped with fluid and spare flints, matches, flint and steel, and maybe even a magnifying glass. All of these tools can be used to strike a spark or ignite tinder.

Just as you should have multiple ways to light a fire, you should also have multiple ways to cut firewood. I've been heating my home, either primarily or completely, with firewood for over 20 years. I own multiple gas-powered chainsaws, a two-person buck saw, and various axes and mauls -- all of which are suitable for turning logs into firewood.

I also own another tool I've used pretty much exclusively in the last three years for cutting rounds when the time comes to harvest my winter's wood supply. And at the risk of having to turn in my Man Card, I'd like to suggest you consider getting one of these tools to take a place in your prepper toolbox. I'm talking about an electric chainsaw.

A few years ago, after my gas-powered chainsaw bit the dust, I started looking around for alternatives. It wasn't that I didn't need a gas-powered chainsaw, heck, everybody needs a gas-powered chainsaw. It was just that at that time finances were a little tight, and as anyone can tell you a good chainsaw is expensive. I'd heard about electric chainsaws, but like pretty much everyone around me out here in the hinterland, I assumed they were not much more than a toy. Nevertheless, after checking them out, I decided to take a leap of faith and bought a Worx electric chainsaw.

And I've never looked back. I cut maybe six cords of firewood a year to keep my house warm. Because of my location, I don't have a whole lot of opportunity to get some of the better-quality firewood varieties like oak or locust. No, where I live the best available firewood is tamarack or red fir. Sometimes I can get a fair amount of the wood I need for the year out of my woodlot. But other times, I take advantage of a good friend who brings me in a logging truck-load of fir or tamarack acquired from salvage sales. Because he can not only deliver, but can also offload those logs, I have the opportunity to have them placed quite close to my shop. With a heavy-duty 100-foot extension cord and my Worx chainsaw, I'm able to easily cut those logs into the firewood I require.

My particular model runs on 15 amps and has an 18-inch bar. Having used a gas-powered chainsaw for 17 years, I can tell you the Worx chainsaw is similar in power to a gas saw. It also has certain advantages (and disadvantages, will get to those in a bit) over a gas-powered chainsaw.

Obviously, the first advantage is it uses no gas. This has certain other ancillary benefits like not buying gas, no more mixing oil and gas, no more spills, and a therefore a definite savings in operations cost. The electric chainsaw does use bar oil, and it uses it at a quicker rate than the equivalent gas-powered model. It also seems to me that it works better with a thinner oil than the usual bar oil you pick up at the store. I found cheap off-brand motor oil works very well in the electric saw, and I've even occasionally used old motor oil effectively.

Another advantage of an electric chainsaw is the issue of safety. When you release the trigger of an electric chainsaw, that's it. The saw isn't idling, it's off. All of the Worx chainsaws I've used are equipped with the same type of anti-kickback breaking device found on gas-powered saws. But I've also found another use for that anti-kickback device in that when engaged by hand, you have effectively flipped a circuit-breaker and you can't accidentally start the saw until you disengage the the brake.

Yet another advantage of an electric chainsaw is that it's so darn quiet. It makes more noise in cutting the wood than it does running. Finally, it's also lighter than an equivalently powerful gas saw.

All of these things are pretty good, but they don't negate the need to own a gas-powered chainsaw. For one thing your range is fairly limited. The Worx chainsaw manufacturers recommend you do not use an appropriately-sized electric cord longer than 100 feet because of the potential damage the drop in voltage over a greater distance can do to the saw. Also, you can't ignore the fact that you are indeed tethered to an electric outlet, which means you have to keep an eye on where the extension cord is lest you find yourself with no power and a cut cord.

Still, if like me, you can arrange for delivered firewood as logs or can yard the logs that you take from your own property wherever you like, I'd recommend you consider the idea of owning an electric chainsaw. Think of it this way. I also own a very nice Stihl saw. It's great: dependable, powerful, and mobile. It also cost me just a bit over $400. In the last three years, I've purchased two Worx electric chainsaws at roughly $100 apiece. That's pretty good economics in my book.

Now you might be thinking, "Sure Pat. But what happens if the power goes out?" Well, I could reply by asking, What happens if gas is no longer available? ...but I won't. That's why you never depend on only one way to get a job done. Besides, if you own a generator, your electric saw might still be valuable...and portable. Or, if like me, you have a generator that fits on the PTO of your diesel tractor, you then have in effect a diesel-powered electric chainsaw that can go practically anywhere.

So consider buying an electric chainsaw. It Worx for me.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Just when you thought...

From the just when you thought it couldn't get loopier category, this just in from Yahoo news.

More texts turned over from FBI agent taken off Mueller team

Sounds good doesn't it? I mean, this is one of the main players in the get Donald Trump at all costs passion play.

But buried in the article is this little ditty:

"...according to the letter, the FBI told the department that its system for retaining text messages sent and received on bureau phones had failed to preserve communications between Strzok and Page over a five-month period between Dec. 14, 2016, and May 17, 2017. May 17 was the date that Mueller was appointed as special counsel to oversee the Russia investigation."

I mean what are the odds? The day that Mueller gets appointed to terrorize the incoming administration in some sort of never-ending O.J. Simpson "searching for the real killer" scheme, some well-meaning but fumble-fingered FBI employee clicked the wrong button and deleted perhaps the most important five months of communication between Strzok and his work honey Page.

If I were Donald Trump, I'd be seeing my doctor about now with concerns about chest pains. Trump should find out who it was that "accidentally" deleted these messages and congratulate that individual on his new forward observer position in Kabul.